Last week, we were digging into the section from the Sermon on the Mount that’s called the Beatitudes.
These are the opening verses of an overall message that many consider the central tenets or teachings of Jesus. However, we’ve been bamboozled by the religious mind so that we overlook the whole truth as spoken by Jesus. And did you realize that the most effective lies are built upon something that is true? What I’m saying is that when you take the profound realities of these blessings — blessings that had been alluded to in the Law, blessings that could only be brought about by the coming savior — and then try to retrofit them as principles to be followed in hopes of possibly fulfilling them, then we have stumbled over the only true fulfillment of them.
Jim I’m fairly certain most believers are completely oblivious to this fact. I mean most of us Christians are still looking for that sense of magic and power in our walk! lol Blessings like this [as Jesus described] are so tempting for us to try and get God to get involved in since we have so little idea of how He works.
We need to look back at these statements in full recognition that Jesus spoke to those under the Law who were downtrodden regarding realities that could fill them with hope in the promised blessings of God that would be brought about through the one God would send as their deliverer. Of course the natural, religious mind is going to turn these beatitudes into principles rather than view them as the realities they truly express. I’m sure it happened back then just as it does now. However, once seen as realities in Christ, we should be able to see how and why Paul included these blessings throughout his writings as being true about us even now.
Now that’s what we like to hear isn’t it? Our blessings from God and right now!
Now, regarding one of metaphors Jesus used, that is, the salt of the earth, he also added the comment about how salt that lost its taste (as well as its preservative qualities) had no more use, other than for pathways. I know preachers and teachers love to use this as a fear tactic to motivate Christians, but in reality, Jesus had described the true condition of Israel.
Jim that’s a BIG statement and I am sure that many Christians would have allot of their mindsets threatened by the idea that this was referring to Israel rather than our “Jesus blessings” we created.
Now, if we want to insist on making this practical for today, this same scenario has in fact played itself out in the lifeless Christian religious system of today. For as a whole, the contemporary Christian church supposedly represents Jesus Christ to this world.
Just like Israel
Yes, and just like with them, “the name of God is blasphemed among the nations because of you.” (a quote from Romans 2:2).
Instead of all nations being blessed in Israel?
Just like the religious system of today, the people of Israel had been running on empty for a long time.
Same today, what a parallel
But at the appearing of the son of God, the time of their redemption was recognized as drawing near. So let’s jump back in where we left off and observe how Jesus proceeded to tear down the strongholds of the fleshly, religious mind that had dominated the people of God. I’m going to show you how Jesus was not addressing the crowd with a batch of random or unconnected principles, but rather that he was tying everything together so as to reveal how starting from the top.
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20 (NASB)
Didn’t Jesus come to do away with the Law? Many grace-believers have claimed that he did. But if so, why did he tell the people that he did not come to abolish it? Let me tell you right up front that I believe Jesus said he did not come to abolish the Law because he did not come to do it … and he didn’t. Yeah, yeah, I know we’ve got grace all worked out in such a way as to necessitate the absolute removal of the Law, but the truth is that it was not the Law that was removed from us, but rather that we were removed from the Law. To repeat this in more accurate terms, let me add that we were removed from the Law’s domain. That would be the realm Jesus referred to in this passage, which is the domain of heaven and earth, the domain in which the Law will continue to hold its power. If you imagine such a ploy as being some kind of trickery or deception, I will suggest that you don’t truly appreciate what it is to have been removed so thoroughly that we now only living here as aliens.
But let me move on to that all-important distinction between abolishing and fulfilling, it might help. Fulfilling the Law is exactly what Jesus did, for he took that which could not bring about a true spiritual change within us and put it to death by killing us. Yeah, I know, it sounds like we got the raw end of the deal, but our true freedom is found in no longer having the Law as our master. The Law tied us to this present heaven and earth, and that bondage was broken when Jesus died for us and rose on our behalf. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law by having brought the very heart of the Law into us by having poured out his Spirit within our hearts, that is, within our very true beings. For you see, the heart of the Law has always been love. It’s just that all the commandments combined, those meant to reflect, describe, enforce, and produce that love toward God and toward one another were totally powerless to do anything about it. The reality is that if true love had actually been in the heart of man, the requirements of the Law would have been fulfilled. I mean this in such completeness that there would have been no need for any law to have ever been given. Ever.
Now, consider something else with me here that seems to hang unnoticed in this whole section of scripture, and I’m including the verses before and after this specific passage. You see, while I’ve often made sure to emphasize the reality that Jesus came to fulfill the Law, the context bears out that it is not the only thing needing some emphasis. For in the previous verses, Jesus referred to those who were insulting and persecuting the ones who were truly blessed of God. These are the same ones who persecuted the prophets who came before. Sound familiar?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. Matthew 23:29-36 (NASB)
I hope you’re catching this simple connection because it keeps rolling all through this message that Jesus spoke. Remember, after Jesus was done talking, the people just stood there in amazement. Why? Because after having heard their religious teachers proclaim God’s word, they had never once heard any of them speak as if they actually knew the God they referred to. In the space of maybe an hour or so, Jesus spoke in such a way, there was left no doubt in their minds that he spoke as one who knew God, as one who understood the Law, as one who actually spoke with authority, not one who merely claimed authority.
With this in mind, imagine Jesus slightly emphasizing the word “I.” Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the prophets: I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” My point? Simple, he was indicating that there were those who did come for that purpose. The truth is that we’ve become so oblivious to the obvious that we trip all over it. Like I said though, it keeps going, and you’ll see more in the verses just ahead. “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments…” Once again, we’ve had it so ingrained in our thought processes by the very ones who don’t want this information to get out that we immediately suspect Jesus might possibly have been referring to those who preach that we are not under the Law. I can tell you that I’ve been accused by more than one person as doing the very thing Jesus warned against.
But let’s not stop there, for the very next verse demands the same answer. I want you to realize that Jesus was relentless in bringing this to their attention.
“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 (NASB)
Why else do we imagine that Jesus used the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees as benchmarks in his comparison? And why did he use a conjunction (for) meant to connect this statement with the previous one, unless there was a real purpose to it — especially when that connection links those religious leaders in such a way as to emphasize the ones he was indicating as annulling the commandments? I’m telling you right now, get those legalistic assumptions out of your head. Never once did Jesus suggest that those who would preach freedom through his coming fulfillment of the Law were in any way, shape, or form the ones who were going to be annulling the Law. In fact, he made it quite clear how the religious leaders had been doing this very thing in a later confrontation.
Then some Pharisees and scribes *came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’” Matthew 15:1-9 (NASB)
Do you see that word invalidated? It means: to render void, deprive of force and authority, to revoke, to make of no effect … and the KJV translates it disannul. You see, it pretty much means the same thing as the previous word, annul: to loose, to release, to dissolve, to remove. The Pharisees and scribes created a loophole by which they might get around the requirement of supporting their own parents, and they did it in such a way as to make it seem as if they were doing it for God and with God’s blessings. You see, when they went into God’s service, they were joining an exclusive club, and it came with perks, among them was that they could avoid the drain on their resources from supporting mom and dad in their old age. Oh, you can be sure they preached the 5th commandment to everybody else, as that’s the heart of hypocrisy. Jesus revealed that these respected religious leaders were the ones who were teaching against the Law, and yet they are the same men who were so quick to condemn Jesus, and later, Peter, Paul, and the others for teaching against the Law.
For us today, the religious mind has trained us to assume that the kind of people Jesus referred to are those who question or challenge the teachings of the church, when in fact the people who establish ways to invalidate God’s word are the very people who make so much noise about how much they honor the Bible or how well they keep it. Never forget that those who preach the Law do not even do it themselves, which should make it clear that they do not understand what it is that they are preaching. In truth, they are not really preaching THE Law, but merely law, that is the law of sin and death.
What an interesting parallel Jim? I mean here we are today, doing the very same stuff the Pharisees did way back then? It just doesn’t SEEM that this could be true. It is almost as if it is too surreal or too scary to to enter into the idea that we are somewhat of an exclusive type of people as it turns out. Aliens of sorts.
Now, as those who have been set free in Christ, we are also targeted by religious manipulators in the very same way. You see, by their fleshly interpretations and myriad collections made up of how-to principles and morality codes for every possible situation we might encounter in this life, we are presented with a number of seemingly godly options to take in order to supposedly do God’s will.
Wow, Jim talk more about how we got into this decision making stuff from the law not being truly obeyed by the Pharisees?
How often have you sought out advice from a religious leader regarding how to live the Christian life? I’m not suggesting that we can’t seek counsel from one another, but that’s not really what’s behind most of those requests, is it? No, most of those questions stem from the belief that we don’t have it in us to know how to live as one who is alive.
Ah I see, so you might be saying that the WHOLE motive of why we feel so compelled to seek this council is more about following the law [that they have interpreted for us] then any real living requests? I mean after all, they lay down the rules and we have trouble following them, therefore we need their advise right?
There is a sense that it’s more comforting or safe to do whatever someone else tells us to do rather than to act according to freedom because some might perceive as ungodly.
Sure yes. Then again lots of it could be just the fact that we aren’t too sure we understanding GRACE as it truly is and we are fearful we may make a mistake by our not understanding love and grace!
Because it has been officially recorded in Matthew 5:17-19, those who are actually engaged in annulling the Law have had to add the new lingo to their religious vocabulary so as to hide their deception. Don’t miss the distinction that’s been made by Jesus as he exposed the trickery of the religious, and very legal, mind of man. The thing is that when you approach God according to legality, you’ll find that you have to perform all kinds of mental gymnastics so that you can deal with the stuff you can’t handle.
Hmm, cant handle? Explain more.
The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees refers to a complex system of loopholes by which they could condemn others for the same kind of things they excused in themselves. Don’t mistake Jesus’ comment as referring to a higher level of achievement on their part, for according to the Law, they had failed as miserably as anyone else — if not, worse. In fact, his statement established the righteousness of their religious leaders as keeping them outside the kingdom of heaven. I mean, he turned everything upside down when he said this. And if you can’t sense the clarity with which Jesus spelled this out to a shocked audience, then you’re going to miss how he tied it together with what comes right after:
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you…”
I brought this up at the end of last week’s audio, but let me pose it again. Considering Matthew’s account, this whole episode comes shortly after Jesus’ encounter with the devil in the wilderness. Three times he confronted the devil with “It is written…” which means that Jesus obviously had no problem quoting scripture. But in this speech, he did not come to them with an it is written, did he? He didn’t even say “You have heard the commandment.” No, no, it was YOU have heard that THEY were told the commandment. The way he presented it suggests that what he was addressing had less to do with what is written than with who they heard it from.